National Geographic Shoots
|Archaeoraptor model, as displayed in The Dinosaur Museum (Stephen Czerkas, director) in Blanding, Utah. Dr. Czerkas suggests, in text accompanying the model, that this is the only Archaeoraptor model on display for public viewing anywhere in the world. Comments accompanying the model admit that the tail of the original fossil belonged to a dinosaur (not to a bird), but Czerkas nevertheless contends that Archaeoraptor is one of the earliest known birds to evolve from the dinosaurs. Photograph taken in May 2004 by Kyle Butt and Eric Lyons of the Apologetics Press staff.|
Seven months later, the October 2000 issue of National Geographic contained a five-page article by veteran investigative reporter Lewis M. Simons, describing how this incredible hoax occurred (Simons, 2000). [For additional information on how this story unraveled, see also: Dalton, 2000a, 2000b; National Geographic, 2000; Rummo, 2000, Harrub and Thompson, 2001.] In his National Geographic article, Simons explained how farmers in many regions of China have made a very profitable hobby of selling the fossils they find. The only problem is that these farmers realize that fossil fanciers prefer specimens assembled and suitable for display. Therefore, on occasion the farmers will “doctor” the fossils to follow basic market economics and thus increase the value of their finds. Archaeoraptor actually “evolved” in a Chinese farmhouse where homemade paste was used to glue together two completely different fossils. The result was the now-famous (or infamous, as the case may be) “missing link” that allegedly had the body of a primitive bird with the teeth and the tail of a terrestrial dinosaur.
Unfortunately, National Geographic editor Bill Allen chose to run the November 1999 story before the “find” had been reported in a peer-reviewed scientific journal. In an effort to capitalize on this rare find, participants in the Archaeoraptor discovery rushed a paper to both Nature and Science but, as USA Today reporter Tim Friend learned, that paper “was never published” (2000). In his report for National Geographic, Simons acknowledged that
...a plan was cobbled together [to] first write a paper and have it published in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. National Geographic—which attempts to bridge the gap between hardcore science and popular interpretation—prefers not to break scientific discoveries without having them peer reviewed in advance by scientists. The effort to coordinate publication between Nature and National Geographic would eventually break down, contributing in large measure to the Geographic publishing a false article (2000, 198:130).
With time constraints nipping at its heels, and peer-review rejections piling up, National Geographic decided to go out on a limb (again, no pun intended) and run the story on its own. Writing for Science News, Richard Monastersky observed:
Red-faced and downhearted, paleontologists are growing convinced that they have been snookered by a bit of fossil fakery.... “There probably has never been a fossil with a sadder history than this one,” says Storrs L. Olson of the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (2000).
In an e-mail to his co-authors and to Sloan, Xu Xing wrote: “I am 100% sure, we have to admit that Archaeoraptor is a faked specimen” (as quoted in Simons, 2000, 198:132).
Proof of that fact was not long in coming. In the March 29, 2001 issue of Nature, Timothy Rowe and his colleagues published the results of their X-ray computed tomography studies on the Archaeoraptor fossil (2001, 410:539-540). Their study documented the fact that “the Archaeoraptor slab was built in three layers,” and concluded that Archaeoraptor
represents two or more species and that it was assembled from at least two, and possibly five, separate specimens. Additional work in China verified that the tail is from an entirely different specimen, which has been described previously as a new species of dromaeosaur. Sadly, parts of at least two significant new specimens were combined in favour of the higher commercial value of the forgery.... Knowing the history of human handling can be critical to proper evaluation and scientific interpretation of specimens (410:540).
That last statement—that “knowing the history of human handling” is considered a prerequisite to accepting a fossil as genuine—presents a sad commentary on the current state of evolutionary theory, does it not? In what other area of science do we encounter such embarrassing forgeries as Haeckel’s “human gill slits,” England’s Piltdown Man, or China’s Archaeoraptor? It seems that all too often someone is prepared to make an outlandish claim—and back it up with what turns out to be “faked” evidence. In their Nature article on the Archaeoraptor forgery, Rowe, et al. commented: “Fortunately, a growing array of techniques can now be applied to forensic analysis of fossils” (410:540). Good thing—considering the nature and number of the forgeries that continue to appear!
As a side note, we might mention that normally the privilege of naming a fossil goes to the primary author of the scientific paper describing the specimen. However in this instance, the published name Archaeoraptor liaoningensis appeared in Christopher Sloan’s article in National Geographic (Sloan is the magazine’s art director, not a trained scientist), and therefore the final scientific moniker carries his name: Archaeoraptor liaoningensis Sloan. Unfortunately, no correction or retraction ever will be able to separate Sloan’s name from this publicly exposed forgery.
In his investigative report printed in the October 2000 issue of National Geographic, Lewis Simons documented the fact that authors of the original account were told several times of discrepancies in their data and problems with the fossil, but apparently never took the opportunity to establish the accuracy of the specimen (Simons, 2000). Apparently, “establishing the accuracy” of some of the items it publishes is not one of National Geographic’s strong suits. As a case in point, we would like to draw your attention to the most recent embarrassing publishing foible from the magazine.
The front cover of the November 2004 issue of National Geographic screamed—in giant dark-maroon letters—“Was Darwin Wrong?” The answer, of course, as provided in 250-point bold type at the beginning of an article that began on page 2, was “NO: the evidence for evolution is overwhelming.” But long before the reader ever gets to the beginning of the article, there is a strong hint that another disaster similar to that of the Archaeoraptor fiasco is beginning to take shape. Sure enough, it is.
In his “From the Editor” discourse in the front of the magazine, editor Bill Allen began with these two sentences. “Humans are not descended from apes. But then Charles Darwin never claimed we are” (2004, 206:no page number). Those statements served as a clarion call that something was terribly wrong—because they are as unbelievable as they are erroneous. As we stated earlier, November does not appear to be a good month for National Geographic. And in this particular November issue, Bill Allen could not have gotten off to a worse start. First, he introduced the issue (which quite obviously was intended to substantiate organic evolution as a “fact”) by incorrectly stating that Charles Darwin never claimed humans evolved from apes. Second, he published and lauded an article (which consumed 33 pages of the magazine!) that is so filled with ancient, time-worn canards that long ago were discarded as “proofs” of evolution, that even stalwart evolutionists surely must be shaking their heads in disbelief and hiding under their laboratory benches out of sheer embarrassment. We certainly are not evolutionists. Yet even we are embarrassed by the content of this particular issue of National Geographic. We also are disappointed (and yes, we admit, even a little bit angry) that an editor of a magazine such as National Geographic would consider, much less permit, the publication of an article as blatantly false as the one in the November 2004 issue. Permit us to explain.
Bill Allen’s statements—“Humans are not descended from apes. But then Charles Darwin never claimed we are”—could not be any more in error than they are. They are absolutely, apodictically wrong! No “ifs,” “ands” or “buts.” Just plain wrong—w-r-o-n-g! Charles Darwin most definitely did state that humans evolved from apes. In chapter six (“On the Affinities and Genealogy of Man”) in his volume, The Descent of Man, Darwin concluded:
In the class of mammals the steps are not difficult to conceive which led from the ancient Monotremata to the ancient marsupials; and from these to the early progenitors of the placental mammals. We may thus ascend to the Lemuridae; and the interval is not very wide from these to the Simiadae [monkeys and apes]. The Simiadae then branched off into two great stems, the New World and Old World monkeys; and from the latter, at a remote period, Man, the wonder and glory of the Universe, proceeded.
But that is not all that Darwin had to say on this matter. What organism was it from which Darwin said humans had evolved? He continued:
[A] naturalist would undoubtedly have ranked as an ape or a monkey, an ancient form which possessed many characters common to the Catarhine [Old World] and Platyrhine [New World] monkey…. There can, consequently, hardly be a doubt that man is an off-shoot from the Old World simian stem; and that under a genealogical point of view he must be classified with the Catarhine division…. We have seen that man appears to have diverged from the Catarhine or Old World division of the Simiadae, after these had diverged from the New World division (p. 521, emp. and bracketed items added).
[“Catarhine” refers to a division of primates that comprises the Old World monkeys, higher apes, and (allegedly) hominids that have their nostrils close together and directed downward, 32 teeth, and a tail that, when present, is not prehensile (i.e., adapted for seizing or grasping, especially by wrapping around something). “Platyrhine” refers to New World monkeys that are characterized by a broad nasal septum, usually 36 teeth, and often a prehensile tail. Notice (below) that Darwin plainly stated that man, “from a genealogical point of view belongs to the Catarhine or Old World stock.”] Darwin observed:
And as man from a genealogical point of view belongs to the Catarhine or Old World stock, we must conclude, however much the conclusion may revolt our pride, that our early progenitors would have been properly thus designated (1970, pp. 518,519,520,528, emp. and bracketed items added).
Revolting? Certainly. But there it is in black and white. Darwin hardly could have made his views any plainer. What he disclaimed was not that man evolved from a monkey or an ape, but (to quote him directly) that man evolved from “any existing ape or monkey” (p. 520, emp. added). There is a vast difference in that sentiment, and Bill Allen’s comment that Darwin “never claimed” man evolved from apes. He most certainly did! Allen could not have gotten it more wrong if had had tried to do so intentionally. [In introducing the 33-page-long article on evolution, Allen attempted to “massage” Darwin’s theory with this spurious claim, in a desperate appeal not to alienate those who might still choose to believe in God.] But it gets worse.
Beginning on page 2 of the November 2004 issue, National Geographic published David Quammen’s article defending organic evolution. Quammen, strangely enough, is not a biologist (or a scientist of any sort). His specialty is—literature. In an interview with him that was published in the October 27, 2003 issue of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer Reporter, he admitted to the interviewer, John Marshall: “I did my graduate work on William Faulkner. My training was all in literature, not biology. But when I couldn’t make it as a fiction writer, I turned to this. And I liked it more—I get to talk to biologists, walk through rain forests and see the world” (Marshall, 2003). “Talking to biologists, walking through rainforests, and seeing the world” apparently qualifies a person, from Bill Allen’s perspective as the editor of National Geographic, to write from a scientific viewpoint on the intricate biological, biogeographical, and paleontological aspects of evolution. From our perspective, however, the choice of this particular author might explain why much of Quammen’s article—dealing as it does with such a wide variety of scientific concepts related to organic evolution—is so far off the mark. And make no mistake about it—it is far off the mark!
But that aside for the moment, there can be no denying the “agenda” that Quammen had in writing his article. As he began, he assured his readers that, in regard to evolution, “knowledgeable experts accept it as a fact.” Here we go again! In philosophical circles, this is known as the “fallacy of consensus gentium,” which is the view that something is true on the basis that the majority of people believe it, or because it is held to be universally true. Philosophy professors routinely (and correctly) instruct their students on various fallacies of human thought, one of which is the “fallacy of consensus gentium.” For example, in his book, Fundamentals of Critical Thinking, atheistic philosopher and evolutionist Paul Ricci discussed this very argument and explained its erroneous nature (1986, p. 175). Interestingly, however, in the pages just prior to his discussion, Mr. Ricci had offered the following as a “proof” of evolution: “The reliability of evolution not only as a theory but as a principle of understanding is not contested by the vast majority of biologists, geologists, astronomers, and other scientists” (1986, p. 172, emp. added). So, this type of thinking is a fallacy, and is erroneous—unless one is trying to defend evolutionary theory? Ah, consistency, thou art a rare jewel.
The co-discoverer of the DNA molecule, James Watson, once stated: “Today the theory of evolution is an accepted fact for everyone but a fundamentalist minority” (1987, p. 2). One university textbook widely used for almost two decades began with these words: “Organic evolution is the greatest principle in biology. Its implications extend far beyond the confines of that science, ramifying into all phases of human life and activity. Accordingly, understanding of evolution should be part of the intellectual equipment of all educated persons” (Moody, 1962, p. 1x). In the March 1987 issue of Natural History, evolutionist Douglas J. Futuyma noted:
That evolution has occurred—that diverse organisms have descended from common ancestors by a history of modification and divergence—is accepted as fact by virtually all biologists.... The historical reality of evolution is doubted chiefly by creationists, mostly on doctrinaire religious grounds (96:34).
This kind of diatribe—that evolution is a “fact” accepted by “all educated persons” except a “fundamentalist minority”—can make a real impact on people. We have no quarrel with Mr. Quammen when he says that most “knowledgeable experts” (read that as “most scientists”) accept organic evolution. But our response is: So what?! Any argument based on a mere “counting of heads” is a fallacious argument.
Nevertheless, there are no doubt many “knowledgeable experts” who believe in evolution. And there no doubt are many reasons why that is so (for an in-depth examination of a number of those reasons, see our article: “Is Evolution a ‘Fact’ of Science?”). Part of the reason for that, however, might just be: “The main reason most educated people believe in evolution is simply because they have been told that most educated people believe in evolution” (Morris, 1974, p. 26). Numerous people, including many scientists, fall into this category. For the past century, evolution has been taught from kindergarten to graduate school as a fact that “all reputable scientists believe.” As a result, people often believe that if they, too, wish to be viewed as “educated,” it is practically a prerequisite that they believe in evolution. Consider how this might happen. Take, as just one example, students in schools (and as you are reading this, imagine how many students in public schools will be exposed to the material in the November 2004 issue of National Geographic). Where, in all likelihood, did the students’ teachers and professors receive their education? At the feet of evolutionists, no doubt. And where did they, in turn, receive their education? At the feet of evolutionists. And so on. Thus, the vicious cycle continues unabated.
But truth is not determined by popular opinion or majority vote. A thing may be, and often is, true even when accepted only by a small minority. The history of science is replete with such examples. British medical doctor, Edward Jenner (1749-1823), was scorned when he suggested that he had produced a smallpox vaccine by infecting people with a less-virulent strain of the disease-causing organism. Afterwards, he lived as a man whose reputation had been sullied. Yet his vaccine helped the World Health Organization eradicate smallpox. Physician Ignaz Semmelweis (1818-1865) of Austria is another interesting case study. He noticed the high mortality rate among surgical patients, and suggested that the deaths resulted from surgeons washing neither their hands nor their instruments between patients. Dr. Semmelweis asked them to do so, but they ridiculed him. Today, the solutions posed by this gentle doctor are the basis of antiseptic techniques in life-saving surgery.
Often, scientific successes have occurred because researchers rebelled against the status quo. Sometimes consensual validation must be set aside for the sake of truth. If it is not, those of us who work in science shall become little more than cookie-cutter scientists rushing to fit into a predetermined mold.
Darrell Huff correctly observed: “People can be wrong in the mass, just as they can individually” (1959, p. 122). If something is true, stating it a million times does not make it any truer. Similarly, if something is false, stating it a million times does not make it true. And the prestige of a position’s advocates has nothing to do with whether or not the fact is true or false. It is incorrect (to use one example) to suggest that because a Nobel laureate states something it is true by definition. Were that the case, when Nobel laureate W.B. Shockley suggested that highly intelligent women be artificially inseminated using spermatozoa from Nobel Prize winners to produce super-intelligent offspring, we should have taken him up on his suggestion. Of course, such an idea was based on nothing more than the narcissistic dreamings of an over-inflated ego. At times, the idea of strict objectivity in science is little more than a myth. While scientists like to think of themselves as broad-minded, unprejudiced paragons of virtue, the fact is that they, too, on occasion, suffer from bouts of bias, bigotry, and presuppositionalism. As Ian Taylor observed: “Status in the field of science is no guarantee of the truth” (1984, p. 226). Nobel laureate James Watson remarked rather bluntly: “In contrast to the popular conception supported by newspapers and mothers of scientists, a goodly number of scientists are not only narrow-minded and dull, but also just stupid” (1968, p. 14). Ouch, again!
Factual knowledge is not based on: (a) the number of people supporting the claim; or (b) the importance of the one(s) making that claim. Famed newspaper magnate William Randolph Hurst Jr. once wrote about pressures from “fashionable ideas...which are advanced with such force that common sense itself becomes the victim.” He observed that a person under such pressure might then act “with an irrationality which is almost beyond belief” (1971, p. A-4). This is exactly what happened in the cases of Jenner and Semmelweis—and that list could be extended with ease. Common sense became the victim, and people acted irrationally. Were “the scientists” in the majority? Indeed. Were they wrong? Yes. Just because “knowledgeable experts” believe something does not necessarily make it right.
Furthermore, as the old saying goes, “that which proves too much, proves nothing at all.” If we were so predisposed as to turn Quammen’s argument against him, it would not be all that difficult to do so. In his article, Quammen bemoaned the fact that there are far too many people who, in his words, “remain unpersuaded about evolution.” He continued this line of thinking by presenting the following facts.
According to a Gallup poll drawn from more than a thousand telephone interviews conducted in February 2001, no less than 45 percent of responding U.S. adults agreed that “God created human beings pretty much in their present form at one time within the last 10,000 years or so.” Evolution, by their lights, played no role in shaping us.
Only 37 percent of the polled Americans were satisfied with allowing room for both God and Darwin—that is, divine initiative to get things started, evolution as the creative means. (This view, according to more than one papal pronouncement, is compatible with Roman Catholic dogma.) Still fewer Americans, only 12 percent, believed that humans evolved from other life-forms without any involvement of a god.
The most startling thing about these poll numbers is not that so many Americans reject evolution, but that the statistical breakdown hasn’t changed much in two decades. Gallup interviewers posed exactly the same choices in 1982, 1993, 1997, and 1999. The creationist conviction—that God alone, and not evolution, produced humans—has never drawn less than 44 percent. In other words, nearly half the American populace prefers to believe that Charles Darwin was wrong where it mattered most (2004, 206:6, emp. added).
Yes, they certainly do! For a more in-depth examination into some of the “poll numbers” to which Mr. Quammen alluded, consider these facts. On November 28, 1991, results were released from a Gallup poll regarding the biblical account of origins, the results of which may be summarized as follows. On origins: 47% believed God created man within the last 10,000 years (up 3% from the 1982 poll mentioned above); 40% believed man evolved over millions of years, but that God guided the process; 9% believed man evolved over millions of years without God; 4% were “other/don’t know.” On the Bible: 32% believed the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, and that it should be taken literally; 49% believed the Bible to be the inspired Word of God, but that it should not always be taken literally; 16% believed the Bible to be entirely the product of men; 3% were “other/don’t know” (see Major, 1991, 11:48; John Morris, 1992, p. d).
Two years later, a Gallup poll carried out in 1993 produced almost the same results. Of those responding, 47% stated that they believed in a recent creation of man; 11% expressed their belief in a strictly naturalistic form of evolution (see Newport, 1993, p. A-22). Four years after that poll, a 1997 Gallup survey found that 44% of Americans (including 31% who were college graduates) subscribed to a fairly literal reading of the Genesis account of creation, while another 39% (53% of whom were college graduates) believed God played at least some part in creating the Universe. Only 10% (17% college graduates) embraced a purely naturalistic, evolutionary view (see Bishop, 1998, pp. 39-48; Sheler, 1999, pp. 48-49). The results of a Gallup poll released in August 1999 were practically identical: 47% stated that they believed in a recent creation of man; 9% expressed belief in strictly naturalistic evolution (see Moore, 1999).
In its March 11, 2000 issue, the New York Times ran a story titled “Survey Finds Support is Strong for Teaching 2 Origin Theories,” which reported on a poll commissioned by the liberal civil rights group, People for the American Way, and conducted by the prestigious polling/public research firm, DYG, of Danbury, Connecticut. According to the report, 79% of the people polled felt that the scientific evidence for creation should be included in the curriculum of public schools (see Glanz, 2000, p. A-1).
On November 22, 2004, CBS announced the results of the latest poll to date, in an article titled “Creationism Trumps Evolution.” According to CBS, the poll once again showed that “Americans do not believe that humans evolved, and the vast majority says that even if they evolved, God guided the process. Just 13 percent say that God was not involved” (see “Poll: Creationism…,” 2004).
The amazing thing about all of this, of course, is that these results are being achieved after more than a century of evolutionary indoctrination. And Mr. Quammen, Bill Allen, and their evolutionary colleagues are extremely upset about it! As a result, anti-creationist hysteria is in full swing. Resolutions against creation are being passed, pro-evolution pamphlets are being distributed, “committees of correspondence” are being formed, debates with creationists are being avoided (so that the creationists no longer “tend to win”), and anti-creationist books are streaming from the presses at an unprecedented rate. For example, in 1977 the American Humanist Association fired a major salvo by publishing a Manifesto affirming evolution as “firmly established in the view of the modern scientific community” (see “A Statement Affirming…,” 1977, 37:4-5). Following that, Dorothy Nelkin, a professor of sociology at Cornell University, published the first of what became a series of anti-creationist books when she wrote Science Textbook Controversies and the Politics of Equal Time (1977).
Since then, a lengthy list of such books can be documented. As samples, we might list such volumes as: (1) The Darwinian Revolution by Michael Ruse (1979); (2) Abusing Science: The Case Against Creationism by Philip Kitcher (1982); (3) The Monkey Business by Niles Eldredge (1982); (4) Scientists Confront Creationism, edited by Laurie Godfrey (1983); (5) Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution by Douglas J. Futuyma (1983); (6) Science and Creationism, edited by Ashley Montagu (1984); (7) Creation and Evolution: Myth or Reality? by Norman D. Newell (1985) (8) The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins (1986); (9) Science and Creation by Robert W. Hanson (1986); (10) Cult Archaeology and Creationism by Francis B. Harrold and Raymond A. Eve (1987); (11) Anti-Evolution Bibliography by Tom McIver (1988); (12) Evolution—The Great Debate by Vernon Blackmore and Andrew Page (1989); (13) Evolution and the Myth of Creationism by Tim Berra (1990); (14) The Creationist Movement in Modern America by Raymond A. Eve and Francis B. Harrold (1991); (15) The Creationists: The Evolution of Scientific Creationism by Ronald L. Numbers (1992); (16) The Myth-Maker’s Magic—Behind the Illusion of “Creation Science” by Delos B. McKown (1993); (17) Creationism’s Upside-Down Pyramid: How Science Refutes Fundamentalism by Lee Tiffin (1994); (18) Science and Earth History: The Evolution/Creation Controversy by Arthur N. Strahler (1999); (19) The Triumph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationism [the sequel to his 1982 volume, The Monkey Business] by Niles Eldredge (2000); (20) Intelligent Design: Creationism and Its Critics, edited by Robert T. Pennock (2001); (21) Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer (2001); (22) The Scientific Case Against Scientific Creationism by Jon Paul Alston (2003); (23) Creationism’s Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design by Barbara Forrest and Paul Gross (2003); (24) Unintelligent Design by Mark Perakh (2004); and (25) Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism by Matt Young and Taner Edis (2004).
But after all the bluster and hoopla of books like those mentioned above has been set aside, doesn’t the question beg to be asked: If the “argument from the consensus” employed by people such as James Watson, Paul Ricci, and David Quammen is correct (as they apparently think it is), why, then, aren’t they creationists—like most other people in America? After all, if only 12-13 percent accept their view that “humans evolved from other life-forms without any involvement of a god,” shouldn’t that alone be enough to show them that they are wrong? Generally speaking, as the old familiar adage suggests, “The sauce that’s good for the goose is also good for the gander.” Apparently not in this case, however.